The 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 2008 Sri Lanka Marathon, and most recently, the 2013 Boston Marathon. What once might have been isolated incidents has now become a trend, as major sporting events become go-to targets for terrorist organizations.

With constant attention via the 24/7 news cycle and real-time updates from attendees via Facebook and Twitter, modern sporting events, from the World Cup and the Olympics to the World Series and the Super Bowl, exist on a global stage. Event security professionals already face a substantial task to ensure a safe environment for thousands of onlookers, but they now face the possibility of minor incidents being instantaneously broadcast around the world, creating little room for error. While the threat of an attack can never be eliminated outright, much can be done in terms of mitigation.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, security has been undeniably heightened at sporting events – in essence, mimicking the aviation industry post-9/11. While fans are understanding, and even encouraging, towards security checkpoints as of now, the supportive attitude may change once the Boston Marathon bombing recedes from the headlines and public consciousness.

When heightened security ultimately leads to checkpoint lines that tend towards hour waits as opposed to minutes, will fans still come out to cheer on the home team?

Balancing Act

While effective security procedures are currently in place for many events, these are likely to be amplified in coming months, with new processes put in place for scanning both attendees and the bags that they may bring in. The key for stadiums and open-air venues alike will be balancing effective security while not overly interfering with the fan experience.

In today’s environment, spectators would be naive to not expect some sort of security measures when attending an event. But how much security is too much? What level of security and waiting in lines are patrons willing to tolerate for the thrill of watching events live as opposed to on television? Luckily, effective security doesn’t have to mean inconvenient, and stadiums that are able to successfully execute on this balance will ultimately not only have secure venues but also pleased patrons.

Checkpoint Checklist

Current security operations likely include security video, security staff and access controls – all of which are important measures – however, checkpoints are arguably the most important part of the overall security footprint. Checkpoints provide a secure entrance point for attendees and, if properly managed, can ensure that threats are detected without impacting the fan experience. Too often, however, checkpoints are an afterthought or not managed to the correct extent, leading to long lines, lost revenues and angry attendees.

For the most effective checkpoint, security operators need to look beyond just the standard metal detector and examine how to provide a total security solution that fits their unique needs. To do so, security professionals need to consider three key factors:


  • Throughput

How quickly people can move through a checkpoint is perhaps the most important aspect of the checkpoint second only to detection. When determining what security technology is right for an event, solutions should have the ability to swiftly make potential threats known, so that security does not need to slow down the pace of entry.

The same can be said of security solutions for checking bags brought into venues. While the NFL has gone on to ban all bags larger than a clutch from being brought in, that isn’t feasible for all organizations. Solutions for bags can go beyond the “glance in the bag” method without slowing down speed of entry.


  • Flexibility

Events venues vary in capacity from a sell-out playoff game with tens of thousands to an intimate concert. Some situations call for temporary equipment such as a once-a-year marathon, whereas others need devices that will be used indefinitely. The ability to scale up and down to meet demand is a vital capability for security solutions.

Ease of installation and calibration are key components here, making it simple for security staff to obtain and implement additional units with little effort, allowing for scalability between events and crowd sizes.


  • ·         Support

Most sporting venues have teams in place that are fully capable of designing and running security checkpoints for the standard event that their venue is designed for. What cannot always be planned for are the one-off massive events – a venue being awarded the Super Bowl or the Olympics – when extra resources and specializations may need to be brought in or security outsourced completely. In these instances, it is vital to have a checkpoint that can support these needs, whether that is additional equipment, like backscatter X-ray or parcel inspection, or the capacity to fully take on the burden of running a security checkpoint.


No Guarantees, Just Mitigation

100-percent screening of every event attendee is currently a pipedream, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.  Additionally, threats will never truly be fully eliminated, but there is much that can be done to mitigate risks without overburdening fans. As threats against events continue to evolve, modern technology is also growing, helping event security professionals stay a step ahead of dangers while maintaining an environment and experience expected by fans.